The Food Standards Agency (FSA), United Kingdom has stated that chips, potatoes and bread should be cooked to a golden yellow colour rather than brown. This reduces the intake of a chemical which causes cancer.
When the starchy foods are roasted, grilled or fried for too long at high temperatures, Acrylamide is produced.
However, the Cancer Research Centre in the UK said that the link was not proven in humans. The FSA also claims that parsnips and potatoes should not be kept in the refrigerator as the sugar level rises in the vegetables at low temperatures. This increases the amount of acrylamide produced during cooking.
What is Acrylamide?
It is a chemical used primarily in making polyacrylamide and acrylamide copolymers which are used in industrial processes such as a production of dyes, paper, plastics and also in the treatment of drinking water and waste water.
How does cooking produce Acrylamide?
Acrylamides have been found in certain foods that were heated to a temperature of above 120 degree Celsius, but not in food prepared below this temperature. French Fries, Potato chips were found to contain higher levels of acrylamide.
Asparagine, a building block of proteins is found in many vegetables. It is in higher concentrations in some varieties of potatoes. When heated to high temperatures, in the presence of certain sugars, acrylamide is produced. A high-temperature cooking method such as baking, frying, grilling, roasting results in such production. The longer it takes to cook, the more acrylamide is produced.
Acrylamide can be found in:
Cakes, biscuits, coffee, bread, toast, crisps, chips, and other starchy food.
How can the cooking process be changed to lower the Acrylamide exposure?
Cooking time should be decreased, and potatoes should be washed before frying. Cooking at high temperatures should also be avoided.
Should we give up bread, toast or chips?
Acrylamide is present in many types of food. It is a natural byproduct of the cooking process.
This chemical is can also be produced when bread, toast, crisps, chips are grilled or roasted or fried at high temperatures in the home.
The darker the colour gets, the more acrylamide is present.
The FSA doesn’t clearly state how much acrylamide can be tolerated by people, but it does believe that it should not be eaten too much.
What is the risk?
Although there is no conclusive evidence, the research in animals has shown that the chemical Acrylamide is toxic to DNA and causes cancer. The FSA says that the same can be applicable in the case of people.
The possible effects of acrylamide include an increased lifetime risk of cancer. It has adverse effects on the reproductive and nervous systems.
FSA is also working with industry to reduce acrylamide in processed food. There has been some progress between 2007 and 2015. It has found evidence of an average 30% reduction of acrylamide across all products in the United Kingdom.
How are Acrylamide levels regulated?
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) regulates acrylamide present in drinking water. The US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) regulates the amount of residual acrylamide in a variety of materials that come in contact with food. There are no guidelines currently to govern the presence of acrylamide in food.